Loved by printers but despised by web designers and usability experts, the PDF file format just won’t go away. Although most PDFs are easily replaceable with a simple HTML and CSS page, they remain the format of choice for reports and white papers.
Interestingly, the PDF file format may have more downsides than upsides. A recent article in the Washington Post shows that many of the World Bank’s most valuable reports about international affairs are never read due to an interesting reason.
The reason? They’re released on PDF format, and the impatient, HTML-loving web users of today don’t want to wait for a detailed report to download when it could just as easily be rendered and read in their browser window.
Does this sound like your own web browsing habits? It’s actually possible to view PDF files within your browser without downloading them. All you need is a PDF to HTML viewer, which converts the PDF file to HTML5 for browser-based viewing.
With this in mind, converting PDF to HTML is both easy to do and a great idea from a usability perspective. Read on to learn the myriad free and paid ways in which you can convert your PDF reports and documents into browser-friendly HTML pages.
Do you want the printability of a PDF without the annoying file format? Learn how to program beautiful webpages for online eBooks, white papers and reports using HTML5 in our course, Learn HTML5 Programming From Scratch.
Why shouldn’t you use the PDF file format?
Once standard for printable documents, PDF (short for Portable Document Format) has fallen out of favor for a variety of reasons. Launched in 1993 by Adobe, it’s one of two Adobe technologies (the other Flash) to have lost popularity in recent years.
Most modern web usability experts advise against using PDF files for several good reasons. The first is that the Internet is becoming increasingly social, and PDF files aren’t able to be shared easily on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.
This makes sense – after all, while you can copy and paste a link to a PDF, there’s no room for a “Share to Facebook” button. It’s also difficult to link to a specific page in a PDF file, making sharing a chapter or extract almost impossible.
PDF files are also difficult to navigate, requiring users to scroll through page after page to reach the information they want to read. They’re poorly handled by most browsers, slow to load, and impossible to track with analytics software.
In short, they’re a usability expert’s (and a web user’s) worst nightmare, at least when it comes to user-friendliness. Luckily, converting PDF files to HTML is quick and simple, requiring little more than some basic conversion software.
The only exceptions to the rule are interactive PDFs, which can be used tastefully for guides, eBooks and more. If you’d like to learn how to publish your own interactive PDF eBooks, enroll in our Making Interactive PDFs with Adobe InDesign course.
Are you writing an eBook and considering publishing in PDF? Before you export it as an ugly PDF file, learn how to optimize your eBook using better formats like ePub to reach a wider audience of readers with Ebook Publishing: Online today.
Converting PDF to HTML the easy way
The fastest and easiest way to convert your PDF files into HTML code is by using an online converter. A wide variety of online converters are available, each offering the same basic features.
One of the most popular PDF to HTML converters is PDFtoHTML.net. It’s an ad-free online converter that turns your PDF documents into HTML while retaining almost all formatting. It also promises complete data security and document privacy.
Online converters like PDFtoHTML.net tend to produce good results when used with simple, text-only documents. If your PDF file uses advanced formatting, however, it’s possible that it could come out looking different than it did when it went in.
Converting PDF to HTML using professional software
If online PDF to HTML converters aren’t giving you the results you’ve hoped for, you could try using professional software. Adobe Acrobat Pro – the application used to create PDF files – can also convert them back into raw HTML for use online.
Adobe Acrobat Pro’s PDF to HTML export feature generally produces good looking HTML code, although it still has some issues. PDFs with lots of images and unusual formatting may require some light tweaking in an text editor or HTML application.
For most PDF files, however, Adobe Acrobat Pro produces good results. Note that you’ll need the professional edition of Adobe Acrobat – the free version only reads PDF files and doesn’t allow you to modify or export them in different formats.
Converting PDF to other file formats
PDF isn’t just convertible to HTML – with the right software, you can also convert it into JPEG, Excel and other file formats. Read our blog post on PDF to Excel to learn how to convert PDF charts and lists into Excel spreadsheets.